Happy Easter

A reflection, a Latin Mass, and a dream

A reflection

Today is Easter. I am here in Barcelona, or rather in a smaller place in the coast near Barcelona. It is sunny and warm enough, around 20 degrees Celsius. In fact, too sunny. It seems it hasn’t rained in Catalonia for several weeks or perhaps months, in one of the worst draughts in years. The media is blaming “global warming”. But I’ve seen them blaming it for snowstorms and even earthquakes and volcanos, so who knows.

The “climate change” apocalyptic cult is one of the several semi-religious groups that have mushroomed in recent years. Well, they’ve been around at least since the 1990s, but only recently they started doing crazy stunts such as gluing themselves to roads or throwing soup at famous paintings.

The transgender stuff seem to be approaching similar levels of over-the-top madness. I wonder sometimes if the intended effect of those who promote it — and note that this is the government and big corporations, not the transgenders themselves — is exactly to shock and disturb people. After all, no one minded very much the presence of gay people or drag queens in occasional movies or TV shows. But when they started promoting it to children in schools, and giving “Woman of the Year” prizes to transgenders, and making them win in lots of female sport events, even “normies” started to question what is going on.

Covid also seems to have been promoted as some kind of para-religious phenomenon, with all those ritual social-distancing rules, the “penance” of lockdowns and masks, and the “salvation” of vaccines.

G. K. Chesterton once famously said that “whoever doesn’t believe in God, starts to believe in anything”, or something to that effect. The idea being that religion seems to be some kind of inner necessity, and if you don’t find it in one way, you will find it in another. With the decay of Christianity as the main religion in the West, other forms of belief seem to be coming to the fore.

A Latin Mass

With that in mind, I went to Mass today. Now, I don’t go to Mass often. I like to visit churches, in particular old churches with beautiful artworks, but I rarely go to mass. I am not a very religious person, although not completely irreligious — reflecting, in some ways, my mixed heritage: my father is agnostic, my mother is I very religious. But I grew up Catholic, and I took First Communion. After that, I became more agnostic, perhaps because of my readings of Carl Sagan starting at age 13.

And yet today, Easter Sunday, I went to Mass. And not any regular Mass, mind you: a Latin Mass, also called Vetus Ordo or Tridentine Mass, which is how masses were performed before the 1960s. There are only two places where they still do it in Barcelona; this was in a small 18th century chapel in the centre of town.

Now, I had read about this type of old-style mass, and how the new pope is trying to forbid priests to perform it, and how it has become some sort of ideological battle between traditionalists and modernists. But I had never gone to one — all my experience of mass was the Novus Ordo or post-Vatican II mass.

As I entered the church (really, just a small chapel with one single line of benches that could fit, at most, 30 or 40 people), it felt more like a secret, forbidden ceremony, because the place was really very small. But it was full, and I was surprised by the diversity of the public present. Not just decrepit old people as I would have thought (and as is common in most masses today). Sure, most were middle aged or older, but there were also two young married couples, two women in their thirties who appeared to be alone, and one family with three teenage daughters and one teenage son. Interestingly, the father was Spanish and the mother, Asian. The children were all mixed-race, even though they, of course, looked more Asian.

The choir singing (at the back, in the balcony) were all young women. Also young were the priest assistants, and even the priest, who looked Spanish but seemed to have a foreign accent (Portuguese or Brazilian, maybe? I didn’t ask).

As mass started, many women, but not all, covered their head with a veil. In some it was white, in others, black. I assume the white one was for the unmarried women and the black one for married ones or widows, but I am not sure. Some women didn’t have a veil at all: were those the divorced ones? Except for a few of the older men, dress was casual. The teenager boy was wearing a skateboard-themed hoodie.

Now, this particular mass was not just spoken in Latin — it was completely sung in Latin. Even the prayers were all done in the form of a song. Think Gregorian chants, to have an idea of what it sounds like. The only exception was a short sermon by the priest, which was in Spanish. The rest, all sung in Latin. During Mass, the priest and his assistants all faced mostly towards the altar, that is, with their back to the faithful — again, the only exception was during this short sermon in Spanish.

Communion was also slightly different — you had to kneel next to the altar (three people at a time), to receive it. You can see here a description of what it’s like. For some reason, it felt more both more intimate and more solemn.

It ended with the priest and assistants leaving the altar in a row, singing and carrying a lit candle. It lasted just over one hour, not much more than a regular mass. As I left, some people remained in front of the church, talking — I suppose this was a close-knit group of people who always come to this mass. It had a familiar, informal atmosphere, and seemed to be frequented by more or less normal people, and not the stuck-up reactionary group of people I would have expected.

As it ended, I thought — wow, that’s a very beautiful idea, a mass all sung in Latin, almost like a Gregorian chant concert, why aren’t all masses like that? Then I remembered that that’s how most masses used to be, until they were changed by Vatican II to modernize mass and bring it “more in tune with the times”. Strangely enough (or not), such modernization did not bring in more people to mass, on the contrary. Church attendance has decayed and is still decaying all over the Western world. So I have to wonder what are the real intentions behind the attempt to forbid the more beautiful and solemn Latin Mass…

A Dream

Just yesterday night, I had a symbolic dream (all my dreams lately seem to be symbolic), which seem a propos to tell now. It is actually a dream in two seemingly unrelated parts.

First part: I was in Putin’s house. I had been sent there as a reporter, to interview him. He seemed a bit disappointed because his war wasn’t going well, but he was very polite. His new strategy was to stage a football match between a Russian team and a famous team from England. Whoever won the match, would win the war. 

As I took my leave, he picked up a postcard that was on the table: there was a photograph on it that he didn’t appear to like. He smiled bemusedly, and wrote something in Cyrillic on the back of it. (I could not understand what he wrote, because I can’t read Cyrillic.)  

The next day, as I walked through the street, I heard loud cheering behind me. Someone was screaming happily. I turned around, and it was some famous Black player from England, celebrating. “We won 1 x 0”, he shouted. The war was over.

Second part: I was reading a catalogue of an exhibition of recent up-and-coming artists. The catalogue was a few years old. One of the artists listed was a pretty young woman who at the time was 28 years old. Turns out that, just a few years after the exhibition, she had died of cancer. It seems my brother (who is an artist) had known her, several years ago. She had died in 2018. Since the catalogue had her birth date listed, I calculated her age at her death, and came up with the number 32.

But, as the dream continued, she was still alive. Maybe this sequence had happened years earlier, when I was younger too, only I had foreknowledge of the future, because I knew that she would die. Or maybe we were in an alternate timeline. Or maybe, that’s just how dreams are. Fact is, now she was alive.

We were standing by the shore of a river that was also a road. This was not surprising (nothing is really surprising in dreams). And, by “we”, I mean an indeterminate group of people, who seemed to be rebels or outcasts. This included she and I and about ten other people. We were waiting for the end of the West, because we all knew it was coming. The economy, society, everything seemed to be going to the dogs. So we would be going somewhere else, perhaps to rebuild a new civilization, or perhaps just to escape the apocalypse. The main idea was to leave.

“We lost what we had. They took from us all that we had built”, said one of the young men of the group, dejected. He was referring to the US, to Europe, to the West, or perhaps to the whole world. 

“It was never ours, we just rented it. Now we have to build it again”, replied another man, a good-looking, confident young man who seemed to be the leader of the group. He was smiling. The girl, the artist, standing next to him, smiled too. I looked at her. 

“I guess it’s the end, baby”, I said. 

“Don’t call me baby”, she said. But she was still smiling. 

Two white buses came along the road and parked nearby. They had no drivers, and were empty. Together with them, a small white boat also came and stopped. Also empty, with no one inside. (The river, as I said, was at the same time a river and a road).

“Let’s take the boat”, I suggested. (It seemed more romantic for such an end-of-the-world trip.) 

But the others were more keen on taking the buses, which would be faster or more comfortable. Even though it was not clear where we were going. Perhaps to the countryside or to a forest, to create a new settlement, somewhere? All the others climbed into the buses. Only I walked towards the boat. The girl (what was her name? Cindy?) remained outside too. I knew then that she was coming with me on the boat. Just the two of us. She was pretty, with straight, long auburn hair. And she was 28. But I knew she would die of cancer at 32. (Did she know it too? Should I tell her?). If we would be together — and that wasn’t exactly clear in the dream — it would be a doomed relationship, that would last just for a very short time.

I jumped into the boat. It was a simple small wooden fisherman’s boat. No motor, no sails. We would have to row. 

“Let’s go, ba— 

“Baby”, she said, talking over me. We both laughed.

It was the end of the West, but I felt fine.